Climate groups, Global Partners at odds over permits
The conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper and the Center for Sustainable Economy have both found fault with Global Partners LLC as the company moves to renew permits at their Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery.
The bio-refinery holds two permits from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that regulate air emissions from the ethanol production facility and the transloading of crude oil and ethanol. Global has recently moved to renew both permits.
The first permit, currently in the public comment period, adds an amendment to allow the facility to manufacture ethanol from wheat, in addition to the corn-based ethanol already permitted.
The Clatskanie facility has not produced ethanol since 2009, years before it was purchased by Global. The company says restarting ethanol production isn't in the works. Renewing the permit at this time is standard, and letting the permit lapse would make the facility less appealing for future operation, according to Global Partners spokesperson Catie Kerns.
Columbia Riverkeeper has urged supporters to fight against the air quality permit renewal, arguing that Global Partners is engaged in a dishonest scheme that could bring crude oil through Columbia County again and dramatically increase air pollution from the facility.
"Global's overlapping permit applications for ethanol production and oil train shipments raise the concern that Global could obtain permits to build, buy, and operate additional tanks for one purpose (ethanol) while planning to use them for another (crude oil)," Riverkeeper said in a handout shared at a public forum last week.
"That isn't the case and it isn't even possible," Global representatives wrote in response to the concerns.
The air quality permits came up just before the Center for Sustainable Economy released a report on Global Partners and Zenith Energy, which operates a crude oil export terminal in Portland. The report describes "terminal expansion efforts" from Port Westward to Portland as "governance managed by the biggest campaign donors at peril of a clean environment, human health and safety and democratic governance."
The report raises concerns with the political donations from Global employees, Global's track record of DEQ violations, and threats to safety along the rail and at the Port Westward facility.
In 2014, Global was forced to pay DEQ almost $82,000 for exceeding the amount of crude oil the company was permitted to transport. Unbeknownst to neighbors at the time, DEQ had quietly approved a permit to Global in 2012, allowing the company to transport 50 millions gallons of crude oil annually. DEQ said Global had far exceeded that limit, transporting 297 million gallons of oil over a year. That accounts for only a fraction of the fines against Global since 2005, according to the report from the Center for Sustainable Economy.
Representatives for Global said the new report isn't a fair or accurate view of Global's work.
"This report contains inaccuracies and does nothing but stoke fear and promote the narrow agenda of its authors," Liz Fuller, a spokesperson for Global, said in an email. "The work we do in Oregon, and throughout the country, is essential. We heat homes, fuel cars and help businesses and governments operate. We are focused on doing this work safely and complying with all environmental and other regulatory standards in the communities where we live and work."
Fuller also said Global has invested more than $21 million in public infrastructure projects since buying the bio-refinery in 2013. That investment is far from the only money put into Port Westward. Millions of public dollars have gone toward drawing development, and jobs, to the area since 2001. But it isn't clear if that investment has created many jobs. In 2016, Global laid off 28 employees at the Clatskanie facility as they ceased shipping crude oil. The facility now has 22 employees involved in ethanol transloading.
"It's just poor government," Greg Pettit, a Warren resident and chair of the Columbia County Democrats, said of the decision to invest in welcomig companies like Global. "It was a poor decision and that's because our people were led by the nose by these corporate shills who were making all kinds of promises."
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